Butrus’ early school records were also as impeccable as mine, throughout his high school years–his was a private co-ed establishment. We had also both been involved in art and music-related extra-curricular activities during our pre-college years. While I took classical ballet lessons in middle school–having had to give them up during high school for various reasons, his high school time had been quite colorful for him as the vocalist and guitar player of a band he formed. Oh, how I loved his stories about his band’s performances in his hometown’s high schools but also in various popular neighborhood clubs and bars-almost as much as our moments together when he would bring his guitar to our outdoor times together.
Ankara’s most popular park back then, a botanical garden, was a location we turned into our most favorite meeting spot after Café. Good weather or not, we would spend our time together on one of the benches, after buying some snacks and cold drinks from the mini market nearby. All we needed were then his voice and the remarkable tunes he created with his guitar. The benches were quite far apart from one another, so Butrus’ private concert wasn’t bothering anyone who wanted to enjoy some quiet on a morning or afternoon to escape from the city’s usual hustle and bustle. His talking voice was like velvet, as our native tongue would associate beautiful vocals and intonation of each speech sound. As for his singing voice, it never disappointed me: it was even more velveteen. Teaching me some of the English lyrics of songs he knew and sang best was as much a joy to Butrus as it was to me. I learned my first English from him. Through the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel. Today I am still as enchanted as I was the first-time I heard “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. When you’re down and out // When you’re on the street // When evening falls so hard // I will comfort you.
During my numerous difficult passages on personal front, Butrus was always ready to reassure me: “I will always be there for you, my rose. I will never let you down.” He never did. I, however, have let him down. Every step of the way. I let myself down also. Every step of the way.
Kafka, what were your life events that made you conclude you and no one else were the one who disappointed you?
~ ~ ~
“I believe these are all the presents you gave me. As for the pictures, I’d like to keep them, if you don’t mind.”
“I wish you would keep everything I gave you, Huban. And not just the pictures,” Butrus answered, “I wouldn’t know what to do with any of these. Please, keep them. To remember me by.”
I had been crying all afternoon. On the chair my mother placed in front of the entry to our large balcony out our salon, the formal living room, behind the heavy lacy curtains she had sewn years ago, when her hands were not yet causing her this much pain. Arthritis hit her at a very young age. She also had to give up knitting, one of her most favorite pastime pursuits. Knitting, sewing, cooking and baking. My mom always loved doing any of these activities in such a quick and skilled manner that whoever saw (or tasted) the products of her work for each would sigh in awe. Not anymore. Lately, she had instead been getting together with her close friends for tea parties to play cards. For the fun of it. Probably to kill time. Maybe also to reminisce old times. When none of them looked the flawed way (their words) they do now nor had the physical limitations as they were having of late. Today was one of my mom’s “away” gatherings. Just my luck. Had it been her turn…
It was getting dark. Where was she? My eyes were stuck on the street from where she would be approaching our home, behind that very tall ugly building with many tiny shops on its ground floor. When we first moved to our flat, our apartment complex was the only one in this neighborhood. The road what had become a boulevard about a decade ago was in clear sight to us. But now, there were too many constructions blocking the view from our living room, even from the large main balcony in the extended front wing of our flat. The only store I could stand in that tallest and largest building right across from us was the flower shop. Butrus’ regular stop on his way to pick me up from the English Language Institute nearby every week for the last four years.
I am sorry, Huban. This one was the reddest they had today. And I thought, by now, they would know what I always want and save it for me.
It is beautiful, Butrus. It just is so very beautiful. You’ll get the reddest for me next time.
No more next time…
I changed much; they so tell me
How can the before be without you?
I smile as if lost; they so tell me
How can a smile survive without you?
My livelihood, long lost; they so tell me,
That I must try to revive the self.
It is ripped from its sustenance,
How can there be life without you?
My youth is the hope; they so tell me,
That it will ease the pain.
I am buried without you
How can I endure time; they won’t tell me!
What was taking my mother so long? She knew today was the day when I was going to break up with Butrus. She and Auntie Tufan had spelled it all out for me, while Asul was listening in silence. She had broken up from her first love also for her mother’s reasons. For Asul’s own good.
When I met Butrus today, I was an exemplary display of confidence and iciness. Exactly how Auntie Tufan and my mother had coached me to be. No tears. No shaky hands or voice. Not one single tear. Yet now, I was experiencing pain deep somewhere inside me in such brutality that I thought I could no longer breathe. As for my tears–I couldn’t stop them from flooding my face.
The sea spreads infinity before me
The pain of missing you
Slivers in sobs into me
One distinct whisper in the wind
That used to lend me your breath
Condemns now upon me
An eternal life of grief without you
Then, a sound arose, one I never heard coming from me before. I had heard it only once. Coming from my mom’s petite body with such intensity and violence I didn’t know how to react to her. On that horrible day when my father told her of my uncle’s sudden death. My mother’s younger brother. All alone. Slouched on the steps of his work place with his heart failing him, while he was rushing to help one of his patients out of the emergency room. The sound that came out of my mom was nothing like I had ever experienced before. A wailing. Exactly like what was now coming from within me. In my anguish I felt desperate for the incredible hurt to cease. My mother will make it happen, I trusted. So, I waited. And waited. Wailing. All along wailing. Not for once concerning myself with the possibility of the neighbors hearing my outcry.
She should be running home. She would hurry home. To embrace me. To help me stop this wailing. To assure me that this overwhelming pain will leave me. That it won’t hurt this much. Ever again.